The United States has always had a love affair going on with their pets. In a 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey, statistics show that there are approximately 86.4 million cats owned in the United States and 78.2 million dogs!
What’s not to love about our pets? They are friends, loyal companions, guardians and diligent helpers to many. But every so often the unthinkable happens and a good dog goes “bad” and bites someone. An estimated 4.7 million dog bites occur in the U.S. each year and nearly 800,000 of them require medical care.
There are a number of reasons why a dog will bite someone or even another animal and you should familiarize yourself with them:
1. Protection – whether it’s their food, their toys or their owners, a dog might bite to protect what they feel is theirs. A good lesson is to never approach a dog that you don’t know without first consulting the owner and getting a “feel” for the dog – what they are like and whether the owner thinks you might be a threat. I think that it’s also a good idea not to bother a dog while he/she is eating – most dogs are highly protective of their food and could nip at you or even bite. Play it safe and err on the side of caution.
2. Illness – sometimes when a dog is not feeling well or is injured, they will bite someone who comes near or tries to comfort or help them. They are usually scared and even though a dog has no history of aggression, in this case he/she might bite. Elderly dogs can also fit into this mold and be afraid or irritable enough to bite someone or another animal.
3. Fear – this is a common reason that dogs bite and is quite unpredictable. You might not even be aware that your dog is afraid of someone or something and therefore you might be surprised when you dog bites unexpectedly.
As you might expect, children between the ages of 5 and 9 are at the greatest risk of being bitten by a dog. They are also at the greatest risk of being severely injured by a dog’s bite. Younger children, 4 years and under, are most often bitten in the head or neck area – an alarming fact.
If you or your child is bitten by a dog, you should know what to do. First of all, try and identify the dog’s owner. If the dog is a stray or perhaps for some reason has not had its proper immunization, you might require rabies shots. If the dog does have an owner and you require any medical attention, you should be entitled to compensation from the owner.
Secondly, you should always see a doctor who can properly access what, if anything needs to be done – will you require the rabies shots, stitches or possibly even plastic surgery.
Thirdly, you should call a lawyer after getting the name and address of the dog’s owner. In Ohio, dogs’ owners can be held liable for injuries caused.
Last, but not least, you should notify the police. Some dogs are regarded as deadly weapons and therefore attacks can result in criminal charges. If an owner knows that his dog is dangerous and fails to warn others, that owner could be prosecuted.
Dog bites can often be prevented by taking a few precautions, such as:
1. Dogs should be trained and socialized. Owners can do this themselves or take the dog to obedience school. If dogs are unfamiliar with people, they often are defensive and could attack and even bite someone.
2. Don’t bother a dog when it’s eating or sleeping or they are busy. This is especially true of service dogs when they are working.
3. Educate your children. Children love dogs and will sometimes be more aggressive than the dog can handle. Teach your child to ask permission to approach any animal and lead by example. Be a cautious parent and tell your child the rules – no yelling, pulling on ears or paws or hitting.
Dogs really are man’s best friend and if we show them the respect that they so richly deserve, train them properly and give them love, they will make us proud.
If you have become a victim of a dog attack or have questions, contact the Ohio law firm of Slater & Zurz LLP for a free consultation and speak with an experienced dog bite attorney. Please call 1-800-297-9191 or send a Blog Message to schedule a time to talk.
1. Dog bite statistics – http://dogbitelaw.com/dog-bite-statistics/dog-bite-statistics.html
2. The Humane Society of the United States – http://humanesociety.org/issues/pet_overpopulation/facts/pet_ornership_statistic.html,
3. “Why Do Dogs Bite” by Jill Richards; “Facts About Dog Bites” by Jamie Conrad; “What to Do About a Dog Bite” by Kay Bosworth – eHow Contributors / http://www.ehow.com